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Attorney Martyn Top navigates international clients in legal employment matters: “The Netherlands has more regulatory law and less hard and fast rules”

PCO Partner Höcker Advocaten is centrally located in Amsterdam South. Martyn Top, an experienced employment lawyer likes to talk with people in plain language and tries to avoid legal jargon.

The law firm Höcker was established in 1987 and has a strong presence in entertainment, media, ICT and the non-profit sector. Since 2017, Martyn Top has been appointed to one of the ten partners of the medium sized firm, which also employs attorneys and support staff. 40 % of his clients are English speaking, some of the head offices are in the UK, with Dutch subsidiaries. He regularly has to deal with differences between the laws of Dutch law, as some clients are based in the UK and have subsidiaries in The Netherlands. “The Netherlands has more regulatory law and less hard and fast rules than many Anglo American countries.”

Navigate the client

Top. “Dutch law is different. Take for example a case in employment law: an international client wants to terminate the contract of an employee, and intends to do this with one month notice. He believes this is in line with the contract. In the Netherlands, it doesn’t work that way. You have to deal with the laws on termination and build a file. The files should be sufficiently ‘weighing’ so that it is accepted by the relevant bodies that deal with the termination of employment: the Employee Insurance Agency UWV and the cantonal judge. Apart from some international HR Managers, for many professionals this is quite unknown.”

Martyn Top sees it as his duty to inform the client, navigate him or her through the process and prevent matters from escalating. Top: “Dutch history draws on a fundamental principle that the weaker employee should be protected against the stronger employer. This principle is relevant when looking at legal issues between employer and employee.” Co-determination is another topic where differences with other countries are often significant.

Many international companies are not accustomed with works councils. While the role of the trade unions diminishes, the works council is a body to be taken seriously. If you don’t do this in a process of a reorganisation, it may cost companies a fortune.”

Overlooking

Höcker also assists companies with setting up a business in The Netherlands, with all kinds of agreements, from corporate law to Intellectual Property (IP). Brexit will spark even more interest. Martyn Top also wants to help them with the relevant connections in his field of employment law. “New international companies moving abroad are so busy in the starting phase, that they easily can overlook involving relevant partners.”

“We see that a lot of companies especially look for IT qualified personnel. I have clients who now attract IT staff from Ukraine.” With the present business climate, and the shortage of local staff, he believes that more highly skilled migrants will move to the Netherlands.

Last year, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect. This resulted in a lot of work for law firms. Top sees this as an integrated part of the procedures you need to have in place. “This applies especially to our clients in the media industry. Personal data are an essential part of their business. It takes a lot of effort to be compliant. Now, it has become an integrated topic in our field. I personally believe that privacy law will become a separate legal specialism,” he says.

Martyn Top about PCO

Martyn Top values the PCO B2B network. He sees that PCO is a strong network of all kinds of companies with an international focus which offer a certain quality. They  distinguish themselves, as they offer services in different fields. Via PCO he works together with Bloom Tax, with owner and tax lawyer Wiebe de Vries. Top: “We had a case at the interface between employment law and tax law. So I contacted Bloom Tax. Wiebe de Vries of Bloom Tax assisted with the compliance and advice as if he was part of our firm. That is a pleasant and effective way of cooperating, for us but most importantly for the client.”

Recently Höcker also got international media attention in the New York Times and the British newspaper The Guardian, as it won the landmark case of Urgenda. The Court of Appeal of The Hague confirmed the verdict of the District Court in the climate case between the Urgenda Foundation and the Dutch State. The Court of Appeals confirmed the ruling that the State has the legal obligation to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by the end of 2020 by at least 25% compared to 1990. “We are really proud of this case, it is a landmark ruling. It pushes and is still pushing the discussion on climate change into the right direction,” Martyn Top said.

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